A video game legendary for being so bad that its publisher is rumored to have buried tens of thousands of copies of it in the desert is getting its time in the limelight, and it only took 30+ years.
Atari’s “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” was credited with helping to kick off the video game industry’s first major crash in the U.S. when it debuted in 1982. Its release came just before the successful launch of the iconic Nintendo Entertainment System in 1983.
As one of the first studio-licensed movie properties to be converted into a game, the publisher thought it could not go wrong with “E.T.” However, an incredibly brief development cycle led to a game created in less than six months that, for all intents and purposes, is unplayable. Still, it sold more than 1.5 million copies, even though thousands were returned to stores by consumers who figured the product was simply broken.
What resulted was so roundly rejected by critics and gamers alike that Atari is rumored to have dumped thousands of unsold copies of the game into a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico, although whether those cartridges are really down there or not has become its own bit of video game lore. There’s even a page on Snopes dedicated to examining the legend.
Now, Canadian film company Fuel Entertainment has secured an agreement with the town to dig up the old Atari landfill and put the legend to bed once and for all.
There’s a good chance they’ll find “E.T.” out there in the desert, too: The landfill’s owner, Joe Lewandowski, told NBC News that he saw the company dumping truckloads of games into the landfill in the early ’80s along with other various items, but he’s not sure if they were all copies of “E.T.”
“We feel it is time that the legend be put to bed, that the urban legend be found out whether it is fact or fiction,” Mayor Susie Galea told NBC.
This video is from NBC News, aired Wednesday, June 5, 2013.